Heidi Crowder and Máire Lea-Wilson are to appeal yesterday’s High Court judgment in London which dismissed their case against the UK government’s discriminatory abortion law that allows abortion up to birth where an unborn baby has a disability, including Down’s syndrome.
The two high court judges held that the particular section of the Abortion Act was not unlawful, and that it aimed to strike a balance between the rights of the unborn child and of women.
After the decision, Heidi Crowder and Máire Lea-Wilson reiterated their view that the law clearly discriminates against people with disability and they vowed to appeal the decision, with Ms Crowter saying, “the fight is not over”.
Ms Crowter, who has Down’s syndrome, together with Máire Lea-Wilson, whose two-year-old son Aidan has Down’s syndrome, brought the case against the UK government in July, leading to yesterday’s ruling.
After her 34-week scan that revealed her son Aidan had Down’s syndrome, Ms Lea-Wilson was placed under intense pressure to have an abortion. In an interview prior to yesterday’s decision, she said: “I have two sons that I love and value equally, but the law does not value them equally. This is wrong and so we want to try and change that…We proclaim that we live in a society that values those with disabilities, that everyone deserves a fair and equal chance at life, regardless of their ability status. This law undermines that narrative, does it really have a place in 2021?”
Speaking recently as someone with Down’s syndrome, Ms Crowter said: “People like me are considered to be ‘seriously handicapped’, but I think using that phrase for a clause in abortion law is so out of date…People shouldn’t be treated differently because of their disabilities, it’s downright discrimination”.
Currently in England, Wales and Scotland, there is a general 24-week time limit for abortion, but if the baby has a disability, including Down’s syndrome, abortion is legal right up to birth.
Heidi Crowter and Máire Lea-Wilson showed remarkable courage and strength in taking the case to the High Court. Courts make decisions that are not always rooted in natural justice or in defending the weakest.
Then there’s the court of public opinion. Heidi Crowter and Máire Lea-Wilson’s dignified but defiant reaction to yesterday’s judgement have succeeded in winning many new allies and supporters to their cause.
It should be noted that even the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has repeatedly criticised countries that allow abortion based on disability.
The path to victory is perseverance. On this point, it’s really encouraging to see Heidi and Máire so focussed and dedicated to keeping the fight for justice going.